MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - Organizations that stiffed Memphis to the tune of a million bucks may get away with it. The money is owed to the city for providing police protection at special events.
ABC 24 News first broke this story eight months ago. Ever since then the city has been trying to come up with a plan to collect the cash.
You've heard the saying something is better than nothing. That's the attitude the Wharton administration is taking about collecting money from several Memphis organizations that agreed to pay for police services, but didn't.
"A million dollars is a lot of money," noted Herman Morris, but the city's attorney admits city hall may have missed the opportunity to collect the cash. "There are some that are beyond the period of time where we would reasonably expect to go back and collect it."
From Memphis in May to the St. Jude Marathon to the Liberty Bowl party, the list of who's not paying for extra police coverage goes on and on.
Truth is those in charge didn't even know how much money was owed until I started asking about it a year ago.
"Did you realize it was that much money?"
"No, not until you started inquiring about it," responded Police Director Toney Armstrong in November 2011.
Truth is no one was making an effort to collect the money.
Armstrong stated, "We are not a collection agency, so I don't have anyone on my staff actively calling people and saying, 'Hey, you owe us x-amount of dollars and we want our money.'"
During Memphis in May we asked its Executive Director, Diane Hampton, about the hundreds of thousand of dollars the festival owes to pay for city police services.
"I haven't seen what you're talking about; our relationship with the Memphis Police Department is wonderful and I don't have any comment other than that."
To fix this mess the city is creating a new policy. It will be applied to outstanding balances and future events.
It's a formula involving "how much additional revenue will they bring in, in terms of tax dollars that wouldn't be here but for that event," Morris explained.
Morris couldn't tell me how much of the million dollars they might be able to collect. And, remember some groups have never paid a penny of what they promised.
"If groups have not paid until now, why are they going to start?"
"We're going to work with them; we're going to work with them very rigorously and enthusiastically," Morris said.
Good luck with that.
Truth is the new formula will reduce the amount many of the groups owe, but it goes back to that saying that something is better than nothing - because right now the organizations aren't running to city hall writing checks.